Habanos cigars are available in Uster. "The availability of Habanos cigars is currently difficult (as of 2022, editor's note)," says Andreas Stachl. "I started my business in 2000. The general supply situation was difficult in 2000, and not just as a new retailer. Later, I got Habanos Specialist status and the allocation of cigars got better." The coronavirus pandemic made business more difficult - as in many industries.
Order 10 boxes of Partagas D4, receive one or two boxes
Andreas is called "Andi". He tends to be a quiet guy who makes a level-headed impression. His Casa LaCorona is legendary. He has two stores: the flagship store is in Uster and the other store is in Rapperswil. "I started my business in Rapperswil in 2000," says Andi, his eyes lighting up. "They are currently moving in Rapperswil and a new store is being built in the middle of the old town after 22 years." Zigarren.Zone will report on this.
"We get Partagas D4," Andi continues. "I order 10 boxes and get one or two boxes. The Habanos cigars are currently being allocated more strictly than usual." He says this with an almost unbelievable composure. I don't detect any stress in his voice; he seems completely relaxed to me. It's as if he's just received 100 boxes of D4 but doesn't want to say so. Of course he hasn't received 100 boxes. How could he?
"We just received the new Romeo Y Julieta Linea de Oro today," he says happily. "We got a few boxes, it looks great." But he doesn't know if and when he'll get any more. Andi hasn't received any Montecristo Open Regata or Partagas Salomones for months - to name just two examples. "People want to buy, but the cigars aren't available."
Casa LaCorona Uster: Customers want to buy, but don't get enough Habanos cigars
"Customers are sometimes startled when they want to buy a Habanos and it's not available," explains Andi. The customer then immediately orders several boxes and Andi replies: "Thank you very much, but I can't say if and when I can deliver your order. We get scant information from the official importer, Intertabak AG. But not because he doesn't want to tell us, but because he hardly gets any information himself from Cuba about when which cigars will arrive."
The store, the lounge and the humidor compartments for customers
The store in Uster takes you back to the good old days. Everything has a colonial look. Here the large walk-in humidor. There, a large pleasure area for whiskies and rums. A staircase leads to the second floor. What a beautiful lounge! Upstairs in the attic, it is furnished. Totally cozy, it invites you to linger and enjoy.
"Which cigars do your customers ask for? Cuba or non-Cuba?" I want to know. "The lounge customers," says Andi, "usually ask: What's new? Of course, that can be anything, including non-Cuban. I also have customers who explicitly smoke Cuban cigars."
Non-Cuba cigars have caught up somewhat in sales from the large, walk-in humidor in recent years. A few years ago, customers used to buy boxes of Cuba cigars. Today, they also buy boxes of Non Cuba cigars; previously, customers tended to buy individual Non Cuba cigars.
"Personally, I'm a Cuba cigar lover," says Andi. "Of course, I try all the cigars we get new, including non-Cuban ones. Every now and then I also find such cigars interesting. But my heart beats for Cuba. It's estimated that we sell 50:50 Cuba and non-Cuba cigars."
"Your customers can rent humidor compartments from you?" I want to know. "Yes, only our own goods are in there and nothing from outside. It's to do with security, so that no tobacco bugs sneak in." The compartments are accessible during opening hours. The compartments are humidified centrally via the rear wall. One compartment costs CHF 1,000 per year, but you get a voucher worth CHF 760, which you can use to shop at Casa LaCorona. There are also four vouchers at a 20% discount. You can also rent the locker for three years (CHF 3,000) and receive a voucher worth CHF 880 per year.
The fans are used by customers who regularly come to the lounge to enjoy their cigars. This was banned for a while during the pandemic, but is now permitted again under certain conditions. "We have the catering patent," explains Andi, "so we were able to keep the catering open under the pandemic conditions. During the lockdowns in 2020/21, the lounge and terrace also had to be closed, only in-store sales were possible."
Andi pauses and thinks about these two lockdowns for a moment before continuing: "In our canton, lounges like this are open to the public, so you don't need a membership to smoke cigars in the lounge. However, a reservation is recommended."
Advice for beginners: Cuba or non-Cuba cigars?
"What would you recommend to a beginner who buys cigars from you? Cuba or non-Cuba?" I'm interested in his answer. "Personally, I think a Cuban cigar needs a bit more knowledge to smoke it. A non-Cuban cigar is easier to smoke and doesn't necessarily need this knowledge."
"What do you mean by that?" I ask. -'You have to understand cigar smoking if you want to smoke Cuba,' Andi replies. 'Otherwise you might be disappointed. The storage time of Cuban cigars is very important. The tobacco is still relatively fresh as soon as the cigars are sold. Then they are already quite tasty. But this tobacco needs time to mature, that's just the way it is with Cuban cigars. Depending on the brand and format, the cigar needs several years to mature. It's like Bordeaux wine."
Non Cuba cigars are ready to smoke as soon as they go on sale. The tobacco has been matured for a long time. Cuba does not have this luxury. The cigars have to go on sale quickly and the tobacco cannot mature as long as it should or could.
No wood available in Cuba for the cigar boxes
"Do you have the opportunity to help the Cubans directly so that they can get the wood for the cigar boxes? Or so that they can get paper?" I want to know. This has been one of the scarce commodities in Cuba for months. The wood often comes from China. Cuba has hardly any foreign currency and can therefore hardly buy the goods it needs abroad. "We support private individuals in Cuba and tobacco farmers, other options are not possible for us in Cuba because of the state," Andi replies. He continues: "For example, we have already rebuilt tobacco barns that were destroyed by hurricanes."
The corona pandemic is no longer largely responsible for the shortage. Cigars are available in Cuba, but they can't pack them because there is a lack of supply material. It's a vicious circle: The money is currently needed in Cuba in other ways than to buy wood and paper for cigars. But they could generate a lot of money with cigars. The snake bites its own tail, so to speak.
"As soon as tourism in Cuba booms again after the coronavirus pandemic," says Andi, "a lot of money will come to Cuba and the state will have more liquid assets available again to improve the supply situation in many areas." He is convinced of this.
Are these Cuban cigars originals or fakes?
Guests at his stores ask this question from time to time. "Yes, that happens all the time," Andi amuses himself. "After their Cuban vacation, they come to us with their Cohiba Esplendidos and ask how much we sell a box of Esplendidos for? Their eyes light up because they think they could do a good deal right now." He smiles and continues: "A box of 25 costs around CHF 1,200. Then these guests' eyes light up even more and they offer me their box for sale."
I am also amused. Andi continues: "Before they even open their box, I tell them that they are fakes; I can tell immediately from the look of the box. Then I show them an original box. I explain to them the differences between the original and the fake. They are always disappointed afterwards because their box is worth nothing."
In Switzerland, you can buy original Habanos cigars from authorized retailers. Counterfeits are big business worldwide. Most of the time you can recognize the fakes immediately. But there are also very well-made fakes that are sold worldwide; such fakes are only unmasked as fakes after thorough inspection by a specialist.
Gray import is permitted in Switzerland
"Do you order Cuban cigars from Grauimport because you don't get enough from Intertabak?" I want to know. "That rarely happens," Andi answers openly and honestly. "If I can't get a Wide Churchill at Intertabak, for example, and a gray importer has the cigars, then I buy them. I tell Intertabak that, I'm quite open about it. These cases can be counted on one hand."
Andi thinks about it and adds: "Gray importers would love to have me as a customer. But I'm not behind that; let's be clear: Gray imports from the well-known, large importers are permitted in Switzerland. These are original goods, but they come to us in Switzerland through a different distribution channel. However, small gray importers also bring counterfeits into the country. I keep my hands off such importers."
We remember: This article was written in February 2022. The availability list at the official importer Intertabak AG and at the large and reputable gray importers has become small. Sometimes it takes up an A4 page, sometimes a little more.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to the reopening of Casa LaCorona in Rapperswil; we will report on this.
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- Photos of this post: FotoWerk 132